Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hillindon 1643 - a Black Powder battle...

Having umm'd and ahh'd over the merits of different periods and models, I plumped at the last minute to try Black Powder with my large ECW collections the other week for a Sunday game against regular Napoleonics opponent, Neil.

The scenario was essentially a working of two of the CS Grant scenario's together. Off table reserves and hidden deployments. The Parliamentary army under sir William Waller was given the simple task of seizing and holding the high ground above the town of Hillingdon, thus dominating the enemy lines of communication.

To undertake this task Waller could call on 6 regiments of foote, with a pair of cannon in direct support; along with four regiments of horse. Waller was aware that the enemy had stronger horse on it's way to the field and so was intent upon taking a strong position as swiftly as possible.

By contrast the Royalists under Sir Ralph Hopton could present only a thin line [or a single brigade in BP parlance] to face the Roundheads; though one equipped with two cannon already well placed on the high ground.

The Parliamentarians deployed in traditional order and began to advance upon the hill.

Their progress was slow and at times disorderly, with units not always taking their orders; but nevertheless a general advance was made upon the ridge line. The Royalists were prepared to wait however.

When push of pike finally began the Royalist regiments were able to hold the Parliament front line, thanks to their high ground and steely determination. Roundhead cavalry was however able to charge down some of the king's artillery whilst their Forlorn hope outflanked it.

On the opposite flank, Wallers cavalry began to turn the flank of the Royalists; but in doing so also caught sight of further Royalists deployed behind the hill.

As it transpired another brigade of Royalists stood ready in the valley east of Hillingdon. The brigade on the hill had by now broken and was making a orderly but concerted withdrawal in the face of the Roundhead advance; but with a fresh enemy sighted and their infantry somewhat tired, Waller tried to give his cavalry encouragement to attack.

Alas, his cavalry was unreceptive to such orders [standing fast on failed orders in the valley for three crucial turns]. Elsewhere a reserve regiment followed its own law and set off back down the slope to return to the Parliament lines [two blunders in succession!].

Shortly thereafter the Royalist Cavaliers appeared and raced to the scene of battle, covering the withdrawal of the exhausted heroes of the hill top delaying action. They crashed into the Roundhead lines carrying unprepared infantry before them.

It wasn't until the Parliament horse intervened that the battle line stabilised; but by this stage the sun was setting on the field, and the worn troops of Waller could only stare at the reorganising troops of Hopton in the valley; guarding the road out of Hillingdon and so holding the upper hand.

With Neil as Waller and myself as Hopton, I admit I had the advantage of knowing the situation of the scenario; however I was powerless over the precise arrival time of my horse [in fact on turn 6 out of 10]. Also, my foot reserve felt no urge to advance on his troops, having orders to lure the enemy to them. So it was essentially for Neil to make and take the initiative.

As it was, his troops failed to advance with real drive [setting brigade commanders at a rating of 7 made it realistic, but too easy to fail command rolls!] and so the delays cost him the chance to really exploit my piecemeal defence.

Overall the rules worked fine for the period. I allotted a typical infantry unit a firepower of 2 and a close combat value of 6, but gave them the option of forming pike stand in a manner akin to the normal rules for a square. In the pikestand formation the unit can reroll to hit against a charging enemy and does not count as having flanks (though it does have a rear, due to the positioning of the musketeers behind the pikes). Pikestands however cannot shoot, and can only move forwards a maximum of one move at a time.

Cavalry were treated essentially as normal, but the use of special rules from the book allowed for the differing tactics of the two armies to be presented. The Parliament cavalry had pistols and an unenthusiastic charge, whilst the royalists were hasty and eager and had to order a charge if any enemy were potentially in range.

All in all a good balanced game and a sign that the Black Powder rules will cover the 17th century as well as the 18th and 19th, with very little modification.


  1. "...the Royalist regiments were able to hold the Parliament front line, thanks to their high ground..."

    Were the rules modified to provide some benefit to being on the hill?
    Were any restrictions placed on artillery movement?

  2. IIRC the rules allow a melee modifier for being on a hill, effectively a support factor. The only restrictions on artillery movement were that it could not fire and move, and that having no limbers as such it was effectively manhandled to the front.

    The dice rolls determined that Neils artillery never made it up the hill; tactically he could have achieved his objective by holding it further back and bombarding my defenders.